Highlights from the Collection: Michael Mazur, Ice Glen

Michael Mazur, Ice Glen
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On View Jan 01, 2016 - Sep 18, 2016
Exhibition Location: Window Arcade Gallery

This winter, at the inspiration of Executive Director, John Ravenal, we inaugurated a new program in the second floor window gallery to bring focus to exceptional rarely seen artworks from deCordova’s permanent collection. Works will be rotated periodically to allow members and visitors to experience the breadth of artwork owned by the Museum. The first painting selected is Michael Mazur’s Ice Glen which came into the Collection as a gift from the artist in 1998.

Mazur, a New England-based artist, had a long and rich association with deCordova. The Museum owns twelve of his works, consisting of paintings, drawings, and prints. His art was shown in numerous exhibitions, including a retrospective in 1998.  Mazur experimented with different mediums and artistic styles with the natural world as a consistent focus. His earliest works are muted representational variations of his source material but over time he adopted a more varied color palette and expressive gestural approach to painting.

Ice Glen belongs to Mazur’s early 1990s Branching series that marked his first foray into abstraction. This shift was influenced by his fascination with Chinese scroll painting from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). After undergoing heart surgery in 1993, Mazur began to paint compositions that resemble the delicate filigree of arteries. Here he employed an array of textural effects to produce lines in charcoal black and ghostly white that cascade over the surface of the canvas. Despite its non-representational style, the work recalls natural forms, such as bare winter branches or frost patterns. The overall effect is both turbulent and tranquil. 

In addition to enabling the presentation of unseen works from the collection, this Highlights initiative also provides an opportunity to experiment with interpretative material in the galleries.  In keeping with this idea, we invited Mazur’s widow, poet Gail Mazur, to respond to the painting in a manner she deemed appropriate.  The work inspired her to write a poem, Ice Glen, which we are presenting alongside our standard interpretative text to add the enrichment of a voice from outside the Museum to our visitor’s experience.



ICE GLEN, 1993

    —to Michael 

Ice Glen, a side trip on our trip

to see old friends. Our plan,

a hike, and then there was the thought

of Hawthorne and Melville,

a century earlier, and their friends,

sitting on boulders singing,

drinking, and “telling tales,” calling

across the romantic mossed abyss—

we knew their incipient romance

crashed and burned…. Steamy

August afternoon in Stockbridge,

the sun above us a round flame.

Romantic to have thought of hiking up,

then down to the ravine, the icy chasm

someone once called a curious fissure.

Might it be like a bottomless well

we’d each drop a wishing stone into?

We only got close. What you saw there

you saw with your inner eye, a radiance;

what I saw was unfathomable, sunless.

Frigid, frosted, the air that turned us back.

Too cold for us, but we were laughing

as we fled to Main Street. Cold,

but I wish our two souls were there now

together in that dappled underworld.



                                          Gail Mazur